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Despite 0-2 start, Sablan stays positive

By Jerome Lagunzad

Compared to his team last year, University of Santo Tomas coach Rodil “Boy” Sablan is quite pleased with the fight that he’s been seeing from the current pack of the Growling Tigers so far.

And not even a 0-2 start in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament would diminish his confidence that the new-look UST side will get over the hump – sooner than later.

UST head coach Boy Sablan  (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

UST head coach Boy Sablan (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

“Positive ako na kaya ng mga bata ‘to. Makaka-recover ang mga ‘yan kasi nagawa na nila ‘yan,” said Sablan, trying his best to prop up UST’s morale ahead of another tough grind against National University today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“We still have 12 more games. Malayo pa naman.”

The Growling Tigers, however, cannot afford to wait any longer in barging into the winners’ column since most of the perennial contenders, led by defending champion La Salle and formidable Ateneo, have already started building a considerable gap.

UST suffered a heart-breaking one-point loss against University of the Philippines, no thanks to Paul Desiderio’s last-gasp triple, in the opening weekend and absorbed an 81-88 setback dealt by Adamson last Sunday, with an error-filled performance doing the Tigers little favor.

“Isipin mo 41 turnovers kami (against the Soaring Falcons) pero hindi naman kami natambakan ng ganoon kalaki,” said Sablan. “Baka nanalo pa kami kung sakaling na-limit namin. Lamang kami sa rebounds (47-32) and assists (19-16). Turnovers lang talaga pumatay sa amin.”

Individually, the top Growling Tigers are doing their fair share. Cameroon import Steve Akomo is accounting for 12.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and three blocks per game while the likes of veterans Marvin Lee, Jeepy Faundo and Jordan Sta. Ana are adding at least 10 markers each.

But their collective maturity and chemistry, with eight new faces in the fold, appear to be the biggest challenge for the Tigers.